Floriana overcame the first-half dismissal of Jurgen Pisani as they staged a bold second-half fightback to hold rivals Valletta to a 1-1 in Saturday’s eagerly-awaited derby at the National Stadium.
Played in front of over 4,200 fans who created an electric atmosphere, the derby lived up to expectations with Valletta taking an early lead but Floriana hitting back strongly despite being down to 10 men.
While the Greens were happy with the draw, Valletta were disappointed as they needed a win to close in on the championship. With Balzan beating Senglea Athletic in the second match, Valletta are now level on points with their chief title rivals ahead of the final day.
The Citizens began strongly to forge ahead after 10 minutes.
Argentinian Miguel Alba took the ball off Emerson Marcelina and released Kyrian Nwoko who stormed into the box and directed a low cross. Alba allowed the ball to roll into the path of the unmarked Matteo Piciollo who slotted home.
The Greens rallied but were denied an equaliser by Henry Bonello who produced a point-blank save from Sebastian Nayar after good work by Maurizio Vella.
A minute before the half-time break, Pisani was sent off by referee Alan Mario Sant for spitting at Alba who had made a crunch challenge on the Floriana left-back.
The game remained balanced after the change of ends. Piciollo hit wide for Valletta while Bonello stopped Mario Fontanella’s header.
Midway into the second half, Valletta had the ball in the net, Piciollo hitting home after Alba’s shot had cannoned off the post but the goal was ruled out as Nwoko was in an offside position.
Valletta’s shortlived joy soon turned into disappointment as Floriana equalised.
They were awarded a free-kick on the left and Vella’s swerving cross eluded a host of players and Enzo Ruiz was on hand to head past Bonello.
As the minutes ticked away, Valletta pushed more men forward.
With 12 minutes remaining, Floriana goalkeeper Ini Akpan pushed away Malano’s dangerous header as the Greens held on for a point.
BOV player of the match: Sebastian Nayar (Floriana).